CLEVE F. ADAMS – No Wings on a Cop. Handi-Book #112, paperback original, 1950. Harlequin #256, Canada, paperback, 1953.

   Cleve F. Adams (1895-1949) was a fairly prolific writer for the detective pulps in the 1930s and early 40s before making the transition to hardcover novels under not only his name but as John Spain and Franklin Charles. His most well-known series character was a hard-boiled PI named Rex McBride, but even the latter is little remembered today.

   Before getting the story line of this one, one of two he wrote that came out in paperback only, there is a tale to tell about it. As I understand it, No Wings on a Cop began life as a pulp story, then after Adams’s death was expanded into a novel as a favor to his wife by fellow pulp writer Robert Leslie Bellem. In James Reasoner’s online review of the book, he suggests the original story may have been, in his words: “‘Clean Sweep,’ from the August 24, 1940 issue of Detective Fiction Weekly, which, according to the Fictionmags Index, features police lieutenant John J. Shannon, the hero of No Wings on a Cop.”

   From the title, this is good detective work on James’s part, but it’s still only one possibility among a handful of others it may have been. Until someone is able to check it out to be sure, we’ll have to leave it as an open, unanswered question.

   John J. Shannon was also the name of the title character in the novel The Private Eye that Adams wrote in 1942. Everyone assumes it’s the same character, but when it was, and why Shannon made the transition from police lieutenant to PI is a story that Adams never told. (I may be wrong about that.)

   The main story line in No Wings on a Cop is a very common one in its day, that of corruption in a small town involving a the head of the local rackets and working its way up to (possibly) the mayor and several members of the police force. Shannon gets involved when a fellow officer and a good friend is killed, with the suggestion that he was on the take.

   Shannon knows better and spends the entire book trying to come up with evidence to prove it. His kind of investigation involves a goodly amount of gunplay, but as it turns out, he has a head on his shoulders as well, and a good instinct for who’s running on the wrong side of the track. He also has one arm in a cast all through the book, a hindrance that doesn’t show him down one bit.

   Unfortunately I’ve read a lot of stories like this before, and I found this one slow going for most of the first half of the book. Things picked up considerably after that, but all in all, while competently written, it’s still not better than average, even for the genre it’s in. I wouldn’t say this a “must read” for anyone reading this, but I’m glad I finally got around to reading it.